Feb 2, 2014, 11:43 AM EDT
SOCHI, Russia — One U.S. short track speed skater from the 2006 Olympics made it back for 2014. He’s not wearing the red, white and blue this time, though.
In Sochi, Anthony Lobello will become the first athlete to compete in a Winter Olympics for the U.S. and then a later Winter Olympics for another nation, according to OlympStats.com.
As an American, Lobello finished 23rd in the 500m at the 2006 Olympics and then failed to make the 2010 U.S. Olympic Team.
In 2012, he began dating Italian Arianna Fontana, the 2010 Olympic 500m bronze medalist. Also that year, Lobello saw an opportunity to compete for Italy as a dual citizen since his paternal grandfather is Italian.
“I never looked into engaging my birthright, but I knew it existed,” Lobello, 29, told the Olympic News Service (ONS) in Sochi. “I never took it on as something I really wanted to do. But I met a girl, saw a different course for my life and took a chance.”
Lobello’s move also came as result of the “wild ride” relationship he had with US Speedskating that included suspensions, according to a blog post on his website.
Lobello’s surely much happier now, having proposed to Fontana at his family’s Alabama home last year.
“It was a little bit crazy, because that day I was cooking for the whole family,” Fontana told ONS. “So, I was nervous because I wanted to do great for them. While I was cooking, he was talking to me and said, ‘You know, when you find the right person, you don’t want to wait to spend the rest of your life with her.’
“I turned to listen to him, and he was on his knee with a ring. I didn’t know what to say, and the whole family started to yell and clap their hands. It was very exciting.”
Lobello’s love story is similar to that of snowboarder Vic Wild, who left the U.S. for Russia. Wild, though, did not reach the Olympics as an American before switching to Russia.
The three U.S. Winter Olympians who competed for other countries in previous Winter Games were, according to OlympStats:
Rena Inoue, figure skating (1992, 94-Japan, 2006-U.S.)
Clay Ives, luge (1994, 98-Canada, 02-U.S.)
Bengt Walden, luge (1994, 98, 02-Sweden, 2010-U.S.)
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